CHAPTER VI
THE SURRENDER OF THE "BACK LANDS"

DURING nearly the whole period of the Revolution, until March 1, 1781, the American Union existed by common consent and the general Government performed its functions without a charter. The Articles of Confederation were agreed to by Congress, November 15, 1777, but they were not operative until ratified by all the States, and after the other States had acted favourably Maryland continued to withhold her consent and blocked the way. Her objections were based upon the ground that the proposed articles confirmed the existing sovereignty of the States; and before this could properly be done those States which had, or claimed to have, unoccupied Western territory, or "back lands," as they were commonly called, should yield them up to the sovereignty of the United States. Maryland individually had no such lands, and she was jealous of the overweening power of her richest and largest neighbour, Virginia.* On September 6, 1780, Congress appealed to the States to make liberal surrender of the lands, and to Maryland to authorize her delegates in Congress to ratify the Articles of Confederation. The response of Virginia was a liberal one. In making it she was actuated by a desire to consummate the Union as a legal fact, and to secure a definite Western boundary of general recognition chosen by herself. There were also vexatious questions and obligations connected with holding the enormous territory she claimed which she could profitably shift upon the general Government, thereby relieving herself of the burden of administration.

____________________
*
Rives, I, 210, et seq.

-44-

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